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Holistic, Healing Gardening

By: Mike Darcy

Anna's at Salvia 'Amistad'

Anna’s hummingbird feeding on Salvia ‘Amistad’. (Photo by Doug Barragar)

For those of you that have read some of my previous Black Gold articles, you will know that one of my recurring themes is to enjoy your garden and consider it a haven to relax and relieve stress. While the original purpose of our computers and phones was to help us save time and accomplish more, I’m not sure that is the way it is working. We seem to be ‘tied’ to our devices and almost unable to function without them. I was recently at a dinner with some friends, and one person had forgotten her cell phone. The result was that she was distraught throughout the dinner and anxious for the evening to be over, so she could go home to her phone. We so often forget to take the time to slow down and unplug ourselves and as the old saying goes we forget to “stop and smell the roses”.

I think the above situation illustrates what is so often how our lives are today and the hectic pace that many of us seem to always be in. It is like a treadmill that never stops as there is always a new text message, a new email, a new voice mail and the list goes on. For me the garden is my retreat. It is a safe and peaceful place where I can relax and let it engulf me in both body and spirit. Without us even realizing it, the garden can easily become a multi-sensory experience. It does not matter if the garden is yours, a neighbors or a public garden, the garden can bring us into contact with the basic senses that we as human beings need but too often neglect.

Bamboo Crookstem

Bamboo can entice the senses with sight, touch and sound. (Photo by Rich Baer)

In my own garden, I especially like the early morning when the air is still and the sun is just rising. To stroll through the garden with a cup of coffee in hand, and no devices, and just slowly looking around and observing my surroundings and marvel at what nature has provided is the perfect way to start the day. To hear the birds chirping or to hear and see a hummingbird buzz by me on its way to a flower is an extra delight on an early morning stroll. Just in this one instance, my sense of sight and sound are heightened. We have a garden bench next to a planting of bamboo and the sound of the rustling leaves in just the slightest breeze makes me want to just sit and listen and it makes me calm.

As I continue walking, if it is summer and the oriental lilies are in bloom, their sweet fragrance floats through the still morning air and is noticeable even from a distance. If it is another time of year, the fragrance might be a rose, an iris, a gardenia, and in the winter we have conifers that offer a wonderful aroma that is different from the fragrance of a flower. I do not think there is a season where we cannot find some kind of fragrance in the garden. As I walk along, I like to touch many of the plants and sometimes just a touch will emit a new fragrance with rosemary being one of my favorites. I love to crush one of the small leaves between my fingers and smell that fresh scent.

Graham Thomas 3073

‘Graham Thomas’ is a rose that has not only magnificent color but also a strong fragrance. (Photo by Rich Baer)

Gardens can also invoke a memory of people, pets or events of times past and present. Whenever I see a peony it reminds me of my grandmother’s garden and the plants she grew along with her bearded iris. The sight and fragrance of sweet peas reminds me of my mother and how she loved to pick the flowers and bring a bouquet into the house. Whenever I visit other gardens and ask what plants are ‘memory’ plants, I am never disappointed.

One of the more important aspects of a garden and gardening is that it connects us with other people. Whether it is a neighbor or someone walking by, a garden can stimulate some wonderful conversation and in this world we live in, it is vital for us to make connections with others.

Let your garden enhance your well-being. It can give you a connection to the earth and the value we must place with that connection. Above all, talk a walk through your garden with a child and ask them what they see, smell, hear, if you have herbs let them experience taste and watch what they touch. See a garden through eyes of a child is a marvelous experience.

Unplug yourself and your body with thank you.

About Mike Darcy


Mike lives and gardens in a suburb of Portland, Oregon where he has resided since 1969. He grew in up Tucson, Arizona where he worked at a small retail nursery during his high school and college years. He received his formal education at the University of Arizona where he was awarded a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture, and though he values his formal education, he values his field-experience more. It is hard to beat the ‘hands on’ experience of actually gardening, visiting gardens, and sharing information with other gardeners. Mike has been involved with gardening communications throughout his adult life. In addition to garden writing, he has done television gardening shows in Portland, and for over 30 years he hosted a Saturday radio talk show in Portland. Now he writes, speaks, gardens and continues to share his love of gardening. To be connected to the gardening industry is a bonus in life for Mike. He has found gardeners to be among the friendliest and most caring, generous people. Consequently, many of his friends he has met through gardening.

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